I cannot recall life without books. I was fortunate to be born into a family of bibliophiles. My parents’ and grandparents’ homes had rooms filled with books, and I spent hours discovering new places and people within the covers of those tomes. It is no wonder that I developed a love of the written word, devouring not just books but books about books.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of every book written about books, bookshops or reading. It is, however, a compilation of the ones to which I return when I want to visit an old haunt or longtime friend.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin
The setting of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a bookstore. How could a book lover not love a book set in a bookstore? The newly widowed protagonist is quirky but endearing as he makes a life for himself and his young daughter on a small island in his shop.
2. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
by Katarina Bivald
I love books. I love reading about protagonists who love books. And I love to read about bookstores. All of this makes The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend a perfect choice for me. The story is a bit unusual — in a really engaging way. Not only did I enjoy the story, but the author introduced me to other books I can’t wait to read.
3. The Jane Austen Book Club
by Karen Joy Fowler
Reading The Jane Austen Book Club was like being a part of that book club. The characters are drawn — as Fowler is wont to do — so multidimensionally they could be one’s neighbor or relative or friend. They breathe. Plus, for fans of Jane Austen, it’s especially enjoyable to hear others dissect her work.
4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Written in epistolary form, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society tells the story of a group of neighbors on the island of Guernsey and their unique resistance to Nazi occupation. Under the guise of a book club, this small cadre manages to survive.
5. People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks
Inspired by the real Sarajevo Haggadah, author Geraldine Brooks weaves a compelling story about this sacred text and the journey from its conception to its eventual rescue during the Bosnia conflict. The voyage of the Haggadah through various eras is captivating.
6. So Many Books, So Little Time
by Sara Nelson
The title alone made me think, This author gets me. And when Nelson sets a goal of reading one book a week for an entire year, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit. In So Many Books, So Little Time, Sara Nelson takes us through her journey with humor, honesty and a true love of books and their authors.
7. The End of Your Life Book Club
by Will Schwalbe
Yes, there is a death at the end of this book, and no, this book is not about dying. Though Schwalbe’s mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer, these two book lovers explore life as they make their way through their joint reading list. The End of Your Life Book Club provides insight not only into the books they read but how one can choose to embrace life even in the face of death.
8. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
by Anne Fadiman
I fell in love with this collection of essays from the sixth line on the very first page. It was the word miscegenated that captured my heart. (It means mixture of races, though here it was used to describe the blending of a couple’s LP collections.) Fadiman’s delightful pieces are sprinkled with the kind of vocabulary that will make a word lover’s heart sing.
9. My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop
edited by Ronald Rice
Not only does My Bookstore, a collection of essays, introduce a variety of authors waxing eloquently about their favorite bookstores, but it has essentially provided a route for the perfect road trip. Can you imagine driving across the country and visiting all 84 of these magical places?
10. How Reading Changed My Life
by Anna Quindlen
How Reading Changed My Life is one very long essay masquerading as a book. With wisdom such as “My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read” (Abraham Lincoln) and “Book love… will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live” (Trollope), this mighty tome interweaves personal reflection with titles to add to a reader’s to-be-read pile.
11. Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World
by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone
The first of three memoirs, Used and Rare chronicles the beginnings of the authors’ love affair with book collecting. It is simultaneously informative and charming, and made me want to start haunting my local used bookshops.
Bonus: Literary Listography
by Lisa Nola
More than 70 list topics challenge the reader in this whimsical and delightfully illustrated volume. Literary Listography is the perfect gift for the book lover in your life.